We’re kicking off a new series today that everyone is going to find very helpful. Basically, a survey was sent out to a large audience asking what topics they would like to see discussed here at church.
And we’ve picked the top five and will be giving you answers to those common questions over the next five weeks.
Next week we’re going to talk about “Surviving Life’s Worst Moments” and after that we’ll talk about “Dealing with Difficult People”. After that, we’ll teach you “How to Hear God’s Voice” and then we’ll wrap up the series with “How to Share Your Faith.”
I imagine you can connect with almost all of those topics and I’m really excited to give you solutions from the Word of God on all those issues.
Speaking of issues, today we are talking about the top dog, the number one thing people are dealing with. According to the American Psychological Association, three out of four Americans have had at least one health symptom in the past month because of it. What are we talking about?
We are stressed…
I probably didn’t have to tell you that. You already knew this about yourself before you walked in the door. And I know a good percentage of the room is dealing with stress right now, because it’s the number one issue that not just Christians are facing, but the entire world.
And I thought about sharing a bunch of stats with you about stress, but looking at all the stats just stressed me out, so I decided not to share them all.
But one I do want to share is that the group that is most affected right now with a constant increase of stress is ages 8-14. We’re talking about our kids. And what doctors are finding out is that stress is contagious.
In other words, when we allow ourselves to get stressed as adults, it doesn’t just affect our lives, but it affects those around us, including our kids. And I think that raises the urgency for us to learn how to overcome stress, wouldn’t you agree?
So, let’s get honest with ourselves this morning. I’ll start. I had one of the most stressful weeks I’ve had in awhile this past week, as I was preparing this message. Isn’t that convenient? And here’s why:
We are stressed because we are so busy.
We are a busy culture and we wear it like a badge of honor. In the last 15 years or so, the work week has gone from an average of 40 hours per week to 47 hours per week. In essence, we’ve added an entire work day to our schedules.
And it doesn’t stop at work. Because of technology, we now take our work home. So, when that text or email comes through at 9pm, we feel an urge to look at it and then all of a sudden, even though we’re at home, we’re back at work. And we’re not even counting all those hours.
The biggest problem with all of this is that busy has become part of our identity. And that’s something we need to ask God to set us free from. Our identity should never be found in how busy we are.
We can sit here all day long and talk about how much we don’t like being busy. Actually, I’m sure it is already part of your daily conversation. The problem is, we’re not doing anything to change it.
You know, in the past, Americans would say that they found their meaning and purpose in family or in God. But now, most Americans will tell you they find their meaning and purpose in work. Heck, I’m even guilty of this.
And here’s the result:
Because we are busy, we are tired.
The most interesting thing about this is that we’re too tired for the most important things. Like, we’re so busy with work and sports and events that when it comes time to go to church, you convince yourself it’s time to rest instead.
Or, you give all your energy to work and then when it’s time to be with your family, you convince yourself it’s time to lay on the couch instead.
Hurts, doesn’t it? But, it’s true.
We’ve been trained to give all of our energy to our work so there’s nothing left for the things that really matter, like family and showing up on Sunday to know God in a deeper way and spending time with your small group to build relationships that matter.
I’m not getting on to you. I’m simply laying it all out there so all of us can see what’s going on. This is one of those things that if you don’t confront it head on, you might just live your whole life without realizing what’s really going on.
We’re tired, but we don’t know how to rest.
And in this statement is the answer. Let me put it to you this way:
Our issue is not the presence of business, tiredness or stress. Our issue is the absence of rest.
We’re not talking about sleep. We’re talking about real rest. And God is the only one who can provide it. And thank God, He gives us the answer in His Word.
My hope for today is that you are going to gain supernatural wisdom on how to rest the way God intended you to rest so you can live life with vibrance, energy and joy. Does anyone want that besides me?
Let’s start with a perspective shift found in Psalms:
Psalms 127:2 NLT – It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Rest is a gift from God. Just like salvation is a gift from God. You can’t earn it. All you have to do is receive the gift. Now, that’s good news.
The thing is, we can know about this gift of rest but very easily leave it sitting on the table while we live our lives stressed. That’s why we get this warning:
Hebrews 4:1 NLT – God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.
And that’s my concern right there, for God’s rest to be sitting right in front of me but I fail to experience it because I ignore that it is there.
Listen to me. God’s rest is a gift available to all of us. But we need to recognize its there and unwrap the gift.
The thing that keeps us from experiencing God’s rest is this:
We’re looking for rest in all the wrong places.
And this shows up in three different ways:
Rest is deeper than sleep.
When talking about rest, most of our minds go to sleep. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Or, maybe I need a nap.
And yes, sleep is important. But God’s rest is much deeper than just sleep. No matter how good we sleep, we’ll never experience the supernatural rest God has for us until we unpack His gift of rest.
I used to wear a Fitbit to track the quality of my sleep. It tells you how much time you spend in light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep. It’s a nerd’s dream.
And it’s really interesting at first, but my results weren’t too impressive, so I got mad and stopped wearing it.
For awhile, it became this obsession. I would wake up and examine all the charts about my sleep and decide I was tired even before I felt tired because my Fitbit told me my sleep wasn’t that great.
I say all this for one reason. The quality of your sleep is more important than the quantity of your sleep. You need that deep sleep for your body to recover from the day before. But even deeper than that is God’s rest.
And here’s the second thing think getting our rest off track:
Rest is more than time-off.
We convince ourselves that it’s okay to have a stressful week because we have the weekend coming up. The problem is, we end up just as busy on the weekend as we were during the week.
We spend all day Saturday at sports games, birthday parties and catching up on the household chores that got left behind during the busy week. Then, here comes Sunday and we’re too tired to do anything else.
We drag ourselves into church because we know people are counting on us, but man, we can’t wait until it’s over.
And I’m not saying you’re a bad person for feeling this way. I’m simply trying to open your eyes to this distraction of busyness and how it’s robbing you of your joy and keeping you from the most important things in life.
Let me take this one a bit further. Rest is more than vacation.
I mean, how many vacations have you taken only to come back even more tired than you were before?
I’m not saying vacations are bad. It’s good to have a change of pace once in awhile. But don’t get caught up in the idea that a vacation is required for you to experience real rest. Because then you just end up chasing vacations.
And I’ll be honest. I usually come home more tired after a vacation because I didn’t get to sleep in my own bed, eat my normal snacks or have regular bowel movements. I know, TMI, but you all know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the next one:
Rest is greater than escape.
There’s a huge problem going on in our generation called escapism. Because we’re busy and because we’re tired, we’re looking for any lifeline that will give us a sense of escape.
Here’s the definition of escapism: “The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
We’re talking about Netflix binge watching. We’re talking about pornography. And it’s even why we see the opioid crisis going on because those pills are giving people moments of escape.
Escapism promises a lot but delivers very little. I mean, you spend all night binge watching Netflix, which gives you a little bit of escape, but then you wake up the next morning disoriented and without energy.
There’s always a crash that follows escapism. Anytime you try to get away from stress by escaping, you’ll only find yourself worse off than you did before.
And we even do this with our phones. It’s like I am so addicted to busy that any time I have a free moment, I pull out my phone and escape the current reality by opening Facebook or Instagram or my email.
This is the plague of our generation. We can’t even drive down the road without pulling out our phones. The funny thing is, we all know it doesn’t really offer much of a benefit to have our phone out all the time. Yet, we still keep doing it.
We keep going to something that we think is going to give us an escape or help us find some rest. And the whole time, we’re aware that it can’t deliver what we’re looking for, but we keep trying to squeeze it out anyways.
I recently heard a story of a guy who was in one of those seasons of life that is just really busy. He had a lot on his plate and a lot was going on at work. And then a friend invited him to go on a cruise.
We’re not talking about a five-star cruise, we’re talking about a Groupon cruise. He didn’t care though. He just wanted to get away from the busyness of life.
It was three days before the cruise and he was getting really excited. Then, all of a sudden, one of his three kids comes down with a stomach bug.
Those who have multiple kids know that once one kid gets sick, there’s a domino effect through the entire family. So, they quarantine the kid, spray lysol on everything every five minutes and the kid wakes up better the next day.
But then one of the other two kids got sick. Okay, no problem. It’s just a 24-hour bug and the cruise is two days away. We’re good.
All the kids get better, they get on the cruise boat and set off to sea. Not too long into the journey, the dad gets sick. It’s rough to be sick at home, but can you imagine being sick in a tiny cruise ship room?
Well, it gets worse. The cruise staff has an obligation to make sure no one else on the ship gets sick, so they quarantine you to your room and won’t let you come out for anything.
So here he is, supposed to be on vacation escaping the busyness of life and is now trapped in a tiny room. And all they will feed him is crackers and Powerade because they do not want his tummy to get more upset.
I’m sure you have your own travel war stories, but what I want you to get from this story is that culture is incapable of giving you real rest. Only God can give you real rest. Take a look at this scripture:
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG – Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Maybe this is you right here. You had to drag yourself to church today and you’re honestly not sure if you are going to come back next week. But you wanted to give it one more shot to see if you can find some relief from your stressful life.
Our culture offers a lot of options for rest, but none of them are a lasting solution. It’s kind of like getting prescribed a medication to cover your symptom yet your health really doesn’t improve. The relief is only temporary.
Well, there is a way to walk in rest every single day. But this kind of rest is only found in God. You won’t find it in more sleep, time-off, vacation or medication. You’ll only find it by intentionally walking with God every day.
So, let’s unpack what this looks like. I’m going to give you three things that will guide you in finding real rest.
We rest in salvation.
Jesus gave His life to save yours. Like, if it wasn’t for Jesus, you’d be headed straight to hell after you die. But, all you have to do is believe in Jesus and make Him the leader of your life, and you get the gift of Heaven.
Come on, I know you hear this every Sunday, but it’s good news every time we hear it.
But there’s even better news. We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the results of our salvation. Salvation has benefits in this life too. And I don’t think we spend enough time talking about that.
Remember, salvation cannot be earned because it’s a free gift. So, the benefits of salvation cannot be earned either, they are a gift as well. You don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to pay God back. No, it’s all a gift.
Let me show this to you in scripture:
Hebrews 4:3-4 NLT – For only we who believe can enter his rest.
What’s the condition for entering God’s rest? Believe. You simply have faith in the fact that God provided it for you and then receive the gift.
If you believe in Jesus and have received the gift of salvation, this gift of rest is available to you. Yet, so many of us are laying on the couch stressed out about life when God’s gift of rest is sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be opened.
It’s available. It’s within reach. Yet, it is just sitting there either because you don’t believe it is there or you just haven’t made the decision to unpack the gift.
Hebrews 4:3-4 NLT – As for the people who don’t believe, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.”
This idea of real rest isn’t something new. It’s something that’s been around since God created the world. He set the example for us.
If you remember the story in the book of Genesis, God took six days to create the world, and when HE looked at all of it completed, He was completely pleased with His work.
Have you ever had a day at work where you left feeling like a rockstar? Like you excelled in everything you set out to do that day and accomplished all of it. Well, that’s what God was talking about in Genesis.
And because He knocked it out of the park, He took the next day to rest. He wasn’t thinking about what He would do tomorrow. He simply sat back and enjoyed everything He did the previous six days.
The problem is, we don’t experience this very often in the natural. Like, if we had to wait until we felt accomplished to take a day of rest, we might only get to rest once or twice per year.
But, here’s the cool thing. We can step into God’s rest every single day. We don’t have to earn it. Jesus earned it and now we get to reap the benefits of it.
When God looks at us, He sees the perfection of Jesus. He sees the work that Jesus did on the cross to save all of mankind and says, “Enter into my rest because the work has already been done.”
This isn’t about the work that you do. This is about the work that Jesus already did. And I know, it feels strange to benefit from someone else’s work, but that’s exactly why Jesus did it. He wants you to have the benefit!
So, how do we access this rest?
We enter through repentance and remain through relationship.
Don’t let the word repentance scare you. It simply means to turn the other direction. In other words, you enter into God’s rest when you turn away from your own way and towards God’s way.
And you stay in God’s rest as you continue to grow your relationship with Him through prayer, reading His Word and hanging out with His people.
But if you’re like me, you are going to have to enter through repentance about every day. Because I tend to get caught up in thinking I have to solve all the problems and issues that come up every day.
But God says to put it in His hands. Turns out, He can handle my stressful day a lot better than I can. So rest in salvation. Rest in the fact that He is with you, leading and guiding you through every step.
Lean into His power instead of trying to do everything in your own power. Because just look around. He has a lot more power than you do.
I’ve already touched on this second way to experience God’s rest, but now let’s dig into it a little more:
We rest by keeping Sabbath.
It’s interesting. Anytime you bring up an Old Testament guideline, like keeping the Sabbath or tithing, people start to get a little uncomfortable. But, don’t turn me off. This one might just be exactly what you need.
In case your not sure what Sabbath is, let’s go to scripture to explain it:
Exodus 20:8-10 NLT – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
Before Jesus, this was a law the Jewish people had to follow. But Jesus fulfilled the law which means we don’t have to worry about keeping all of these rules and regulations, but take a look at this in the New Testament:
Hebrews 4:9 NIV – There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.
So, the Sabbath is no longer a law, but it’s an offer. In other words, the benefits of keeping the Sabbath still remain and you can choose to take God up on His offer.
Let me put it to you this way. God is saying, “Here’s some real rest. Take it or leave it.”
On a side note, the same thing goes for tithing which is when you give the first 10% of your income to God by putting it into the place where you get fed spiritually, your church.
The benefits of tithing is that it opens the windows of Heaven to pour out a blessing so much you can’t contain it. And not only that, but it runs off all the things that try to devour your income, like your car breaking down all the time.
But like I said earlier, Jesus fulfilled the law. These things aren’t a requirement. You don’t have to do them to earn salvation. But the offer still remains. You can still enjoy the benefits of tithing and keeping the Sabbath.
When you think of keeping the Sabbath, you probably imagine yourself lying on the couch all day. No cooking. No cleaning. Just a day where you recover from the long week you just had.
But in the Jewish culture, this is not what Sabbath looked like at all. Actually, it was the most vibrant day of the week for them. They looked forward to it.
It’s one of those days where you don’t have to rush to get to the next thing. You simply wake up and enjoy some quiet time with the Lord. Then, take your time enjoying breakfast with your family.
And then maybe spend the morning engaging in a hobby or fun activity. After lunch you lay down for a nap or enjoy a nice book.
Then you end the day having friends or family over for dinner and enjoy conversation, or playing board games, or whatever you like to do.
In other words, the Sabbath is when you commit to a complete change of pace compared to the rest of the week. Don’t even think about the work you do the other six days. Change your focus to nurturing your spirit, soul and body.
If you’ve ever tried this, you know it works. When I’m faithful to keep the Sabbath, I don’t end the work week feeling like I need a day of recovery. I still have energy and passion for what I am doing.
But if I miss the Sabbath just one time, by the end of the next week, I’m spent. And then I feel like a need a day to lay on the couch all day.
This is one I’ve been missing a lot lately, and the Holy Spirit has been nudging me to get back on track. So, I’m glad I got to prepare this message for you because it was a good reminder for me too.
So, how do we enter into Sabbath-rest?
We enter through discipline.
I know, that’s not a fun word. But, if you want the benefits of Sabbath, you have to decide that it’s worth it and set up a guard around your Sabbath day.
And if you’re afraid this is going to make your life fall apart, just look at Chick-Fil-A, the lord’s chicken. As a company, they made a decision to keep the Sabbath by closing on Sundays.
This is a crazy thing for a restaurant to do because Sundays are a big day for restaurants! But did this decision destroy them? No, quite the opposite.
Chick-Fil-A has an average of $4.7 million dollars in sales per store. How does this compare to McDonalds? Well, the only have $2.8 million in sales per store. Even being closed one day per week, Chick-Fil-A is outpacing McDonalds.
So, let’s be a Chick-Fil-A and not a Taco Bell. Let’s trust God that even when it doesn’t make sense in the natural, His ways are better.
Alright, here’s the third one:
We rest through significance.
Hebrews 4:11 NLT – So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
It’s a little perplexing to think about how we are now talking about doing something to enter God’s rest when I already told you it is a gift.
Well, I want you to think about Christmas as a kid. Somewhere along the way you might have received a gift like a remote control car or something else that required batteries and was fun to play with.
If you would have received the gift and then left it in its box and never did anything but look at it, it wouldn’t be quite as fun as taking it out, putting in batteries, and playing with the toy.
God’s rest is the same way. We receive the gift and unwrap it. But, we’re not going to experience the full benefit of it until we do something with it.
And one of the best things we can do with the rest God has given us is use it to step into what He has called us to do. We step into our purpose, allowing God’s power to work through us, and we experience real rest.
Have you ever had a moment where you knew you were doing what you were made to do? Even though many would categorize it as work, it wasn’t work for you because you were passionate and fueled from the inside.
This is what our entire lives should look like. Yes, we should work hard and be diligent and be faithful. But even though it looks like work to other people, it shouldn’t feel like work to us because it’s what we were made to do.
And if you’re having a hard time figuring out what that is, that’s why we have the Growth Track. It’s a simple four-week journey where we help you find your purpose.
You’ve probably heard me talking about it for the last two months now, and today’s the day for Step 1 of Growth Track. It happens right after church, from 12:30-1:30pm and we will provide lunch for you.
If you’re itching to find your purpose so you can enter into God’s rest, don’t miss this opportunity. I’m sure you could find an excuse not to come, but don’t let that stop you. It’s time for you to figure out why you are here.
And I imagine some of you are thinking right now how you need to find a new job in order for you to step into your purpose. Although God may lead you into a new job, that’s not the answer. Here’s the answer:
We enter God’s rest by attaching God’s purpose to our position.
Once you find your purpose through the Growth Track, you’ll find that you can attach it to any position. Even if you don’t like your job, you might be right where God has called you to be.
You’re only frustrated because you don’t know the reason He’s called you there. Once you know the reason, you’re going to see your job in a new light.
You might be thinking right now, “Yes, I definitely want to receive God’s rest, but I haven’t even received the gift of salvation yet.” Well, we can get that taken care of right now.
It’s as simple as believing that Jesus died to give you salvation. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. It’s all Jesus. And all you have to do is recognize that and receive the gift of new life in Jesus.
If this is you, I encourage you to say the following prayer out loud:
Jesus, I’ve been living without you and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve done a lot of things wrong and I need your forgiveness. I accept Your love and grace for me and ask that You would be my Lord. Thank you for making me new. Thank you for washing away my past. I hand my life over to you and ask that you’d help me walk out your plan for my life.